Reflecting on Meaningful Connections, by Barbara Dalle Pezze
We received an interesting article from Barbara Dalle Pezze, a wonderful friend who always supported the initiatives and the events of Beyond Thirty-Nine. The writing is about “The Self and Others”, I’d say, quoting a famous book by R. D. Laing (one of my favourite psychiatrists, who wrote splendid essays going against the psychiatric orthodoxy and schools of the day), and thus very intriguing. I’ll hand over Barbara finally:
Reflecting on Meaningful Connections
Connecting with people has to do with distance and proximity. When you connect with a person, it means that at some level inside of you, you have decided to have some kind of proximity with that person. On the other hand, when you do not connect it means that you keep people at a distance, being it a conscious decision or not.
To connect in a meaningful way with a person, the first thing that needs to happen -before you actually start a conversation- is for you to decide that the conversation is not going to be about you. It is going to be about the other person. You need to be willing to put the other person first and at the center. Particularly if you know that often situations, conversations and contexts revolve around you. What you want to make sure of is that you are set on a “it is not about me and what I do” mode. This is the first condition from which the connection depends upon. Everything else is a consequence of this first attitude.
If you enter into a conversation and start immediately to establish who you are, how good you are, how important and successful you are, how great, smart, fast you are, how many possibilities you have or have created for yourself and your business, how much you could contribute to anyone who would come close to you, well, it does not matter how an amazing individual you are, because you have already put up a barrier between you and the other person. Your ego has entered the conversation, not you! And your ego has not even seen the person in front of you that has become suddenly a simple recipient of those information.
That person who has been ‘forced’ to create some sort of listening space in order to receive your information, is overwhelmed by your flux of information, and disoriented becomes guarded against what you say and who you are. What you might have as an immediate result is people feeling in need of what you might have that they might need, and this might make you feel significant and a contributor in the short term, but you’ll have created the very barrier that you will eventually need to put down if you want to actually reach and connect with this person.
If you are talking to your ‘business buddies,’ and you are not trying to establish a relationship but you are clarifying your position of power and influence, the above approach is one that in the short term might work. But if you want to connect to the other person on a different level, which is deeper, more personal and/or intimate, you need to change. This ego-centered approach might be an instinctive and automatic mode of connection for you, but to connect at a different level you need to disengage from it. You need to make a conscious decision to set as your goal not to start a conversation talking about yourself, but beginning instead by asking a question to the other person about herself and/or her world, and then listen to the answer. This will change completely the dynamic of the conversation and your automatic pilot will be contained, at least for a moment.
Once you manage this first step, you’ll face the next challenge posed by your ego, that is the temptation and the urge of getting “back to me.” You will certainly have something to say and to contribute to the conversation. After few minutes into the conversation, you will be tempted to interrupt, to state something that you think you know better or that you think would really add something to the conversation and to the other person.
Well, do not do that. Resist the urge. Do not bring the focus back to yourself and your world, but challenge and educate your thinking to stay focus on someone other than yourself. Do not let the ‘Bloomberg banner’ of thoughts and assumptions inside of you distract you from the person you are interacting with. Instead, look at her, look at her eyes, observe her gestures, her tone of voice. Observe her body, how she moves, how she sits. Acknowledge what she says by restating it; verify what you are understanding by asking about it; even if you think it is clear to you, ask her to tell you more. Ask her questions.
Remember: it is not about you, and even if you think you understand and know better, this is not the point. The point is to give her the opportunity to open up, to share her story, her feelings, her experience, no matter how simple, complex, painful or joyful. It is not about something you want to understand and once that’s done you move on. This is not a business matter. This is about being ‘there’, staying ‘there’ where the other person (the one you care enough about to be with) is taking you. It is not about the content of the conversation. It is about the listening process. It is about letting her be, express, say, show you who she is. Stay focus on her, on what she is choosing to talk about. Stay focus also on what she is not telling you. – Make this not a distraction, though, but rather a deepening of your attention on her.
If you do this, it means you are forgetting about yourself and now you are totally immerse in her. You are in her world, you are connecting right there, in that very moment. By forgetting yourself you are fully there listening and embracing her and her world. And now it is really not about you and it is not even about her. Now it is the connection that is actually happening, and what is said is in the backdrop. What is happening in the forefront is the building of that platform upon which you will continue creating and building your relationship – any meaningful relationship you choose to create, being it a business relationship, a friendship, a loving and/or intimate relationship.
Forgetting about yourself, therefore, is a key step in any meaningful relationship building. Forgetting and letting go of yourself is also the first phase of listening. It is creating the space where the other person can express herself, and you are the one that keeps the high quality space open. You are the one that embodies high quality listening. And high quality listening is made of silence and presence. Silence of words, silence of thoughts, silence of emotions. Silence creates that connecting space that needs to be there before the connection can happen. Silence creates presence. When you are present you are listening. Listening is a primary form of giving and receiving. It is the ancient and primordial gateway into human connection. On silence words are pronounced and lives are told. On ‘listening spaces’ relationships are built.
And if you happen to be a person of high intensity, what an incredible power you have in you to give that intensity as a gift. Who would not want to be listened, acknowledged and loved by someone that has the intensity of creation? Yes, being intense is bringing into the moment a creative power. If you listen to me and create for me that human space where I can be myself fully and freely, and you do that with strength, respect, passion, and a true desire to enter my world, what you do, you are bringing creative power to that connecting moment. You are bringing there the energy of caring, of love, and no other force is stronger than love! When I interact with you, and the “place” you take me to is a place of understanding, patience, giving, strength, courage, enthusiasm and beauty, that space becomes a site where I want to be. That is the site of meaningful connections and the site of the dawn of love, the highest and deepest of human connection that we all constantly long for.
Barbara Dalle Pezze
Barbara Dalle Pezze is a senior consultant, facilitator, cultural mediator and coach based in Hong Kong. She has been consulting and training on leadership and relationship building over fifteen years. Former leader of a research cluster at The Center for The Humanities and Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, she is Honorary Research Associate at the Center of Behavioral Health at the University of Hong Kong, and Assistant Professor at Beijing Normal-Hong Kong Baptist University- UIC (China). Barbara is a certified behavioral assessor (A&DC), and a certified resilience coach (A&DC). She has published and co-edited books and articles, and presented at conferences and universities across Asia, Australia and Europe.